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Partnership with the Arab Social Democratic Movement: Democracy and Social Justice in the Arab World

When a hitherto unknown greengrocer set himself on fire in a public thoroughfare in the Tunisian town of Sidi Bouzid on December the 17th 2010, in a desperate protest against his social situation and the arbitrariness of state power, his action set in motion a wave of protests and revolutions throughout the entire Arab Region. Authoritarian regimes have been toppled and transitional processes have been initiated in Tunisia, Egypt, Lybia and in the Yemen.

We welcome the success of the national dialogue conference in Yemen and call to support the implementation of the dialogue outcomes. In other countries the governments have been forced to attempt to shore up their waning legitimacy by introducing reforms. There have been violent clashes in some countries in which the budding protest movements have been suppressed by force. In Syria the situation has exploded into a merciless civil and proxy war, the consequences of which will continue to confront the region for decades to come. But in spite of all these differences what the countries of this region have in common is that they are all currently traversing the arduous path towards democratic reforms, in some cases under very difficult conditions. Another point of commonality is a shared yearning for social justice, liberty, and dignity, as expressed in the slogans of many of the protest movements.

The adoption of a new constitution in Tunisia, the very country that gave rise to the so-called “Arab Spring”, which enshrines fundamental liberties and the right to acceptable work, represents a significant milestone along the road to a full democratic transition. Following decades of authoritarian rule and oppression, this epoch-making breakthrough symbolises the wave of hope that is radiating outwards far beyond the Arab Region; the hope for a better future rooted in the values of liberty, justice and solidarity.

Despite of setbacks and regrettable violence, the approval of the constitution and the upcoming national elections in Egypt provide hope for democracy and national reconciliation for those who are not involved in violence. We express our deep concern about the ongoing violence and terrorist attacks in the Sinai Peninsula and the main land Egypt. We reiterate our adherence to the full political rights, freedom of speech, peaceful protest and guarantees of a free democratic process of elections. In Palestine we stand by the two-state-solution, to end the occupation, and achieve legitimate rights and create a Palestinian independent state on the 1967 boarders with East Jerusalem its capital side by side in peace and security with its neighbours. The alternative otherwise would be more segregation and discrimination that we stand against. In this regard, we fully support the European Union guidelines that stipulated not dealing with Israeli ongoing expansion beyond the Green Line – in accordance with the international law. We also support taking firm actions against illegality from international civil society and private sector actors.

Day in day out the populace of the Arab World are striving for more political rights, better social conditions and greater economic opportunities. We are conscious of the fact that we share these same values and that we represent a staunch partner to the people in the region:

We stand for democracy and liberty

We are sending a clear signal in a region that has suffered under the heavy yoke of authoritarian rule and restricted freedoms: it is not possible to reverse the wheel of history. The democratic processes unfolding within the Arab World cannot be turned back. We shall oppose all attempts to rob the peoples of the Arab World of their hard won rights or to undermine their initial democratic reforms and achievements. We need democracy in order to be able to organise our societies in the ways in which we envisage them. It is democracy that ensures the will of the people to break through. We need democracy to protect a life lived in dignity and liberty, in which the rights of every human being are respected, regardless of their gender, ancestry, ethnicity, religious affiliations or sexual orientation. That is why we are campaigning alongside the affected populations for the realisation of our shared vision of a democratic and liberal society.

We stand for Justice

In a region that continues to be characterised by major inequalities among the populations, and which has suffered under decades of neo-liberal reforms, we are making a stand for justice. It is still the case that a mere handful of people enjoy great wealth whilst the overwhelming majority of the populace lives in poverty. The issue of rampant youth unemployment is crippling the region’s coming generation. The exclusion of women from many walks of life is hampering progress. This persistent state of injustice and discrimination is preventing the full unfolding of democracy. Therefore what we require is greater social justice in order to transform the hopes of ordinary people for a better future into reality. We need more social justice in order to create a sustainable democratic process. This will only succeed if it is coupled with improved living conditions for the masses. Therefore we, along with our partners in the trade unions and civil society, are striving for the realisation of social rights and insisting on the right of individual economic and social development.

We stand for solidarity

We share the conviction that solidarity is the basic foundation of all societies. No society founded on the selfish credo of “every man for himself ” can sustain over the long term. We need social safety nets in order to make solidarity something that all members of the community delete can experience. We need social safety nets that are based on a comprehensive communal basis and not on individual charitable donations, and which encompass the rights and obligations of all members of society. Only a political programme oriented on thoroughgoing social cohesion and the principle of solidarity can contribute towards an increase in democracy, justice and equality. That is why we are partnering actively with the Arab Social Democratic Forum towards the creation of a core of solidarity within our societies, and why we are demanding social reforms that will serve the interests of the weakest members of the population, and promote social cohesion within these communities.

The countries within the Arab Region are facing formidable challenges on the economic and social fronts, but also at the political and communal levels. As progressive forces we are taking up these challenges and are striving to bring about a better future in collaboration with the people. This better future will become a reality because we are committed to the values of liberty, justice and solidarity. Alternative modes of communal coexistence within the region are possible provided we campaign alongside the people for a progressive social model based on the principle of solidarity.